No dish screams summer quite like grilled chicken. That said, it can take time to master the grill, and chicken cooked over those ripping-hot grates runs the risk of drying out. Enter this herby green sauce, made with yogurt and loaded with a bevy of tender herbs and alliums. This recipe acts as a twofer—the sauce is used to marinate the meat, and you save some for serving, too.
The centuries-old technique of marinating protein in yogurt can be used for just about any type of meat, but it’s particularly helpful when it comes to grilling. You see, the lactic acid in yogurt tenderizes the meat, rendering it incredibly juicy, while simultaneously adding a subtle, tangy flavor. Since the chicken is rubbed with just a thin layer of the marinade, there’s no need to wipe it off (no waste for the win!). The yogurt will not only penetrate the chicken all the way through but will also act as an insulating barrier to prevent tough meat.
Spatchcocking the bird is one of my favorite ways to prepare chicken. While it might look intimidating, all it takes is removing the backbone and flattening the breast. Most recipes call for kitchen shears to do the job, but I prefer heavier-duty garden shears (washed, of course), which cut through the chicken with little resistance. A spatchcocked chicken will cook much more evenly and quickly than a regular chicken (same goes for roasting!), creating equal parts crispy skin and succulent meat.
When it comes to serving, spoonfuls of the sauce really bring the bird to life. If you’re looking to round out the meal, drizzle a few pieces of sourdough with olive oil, rub them with a garlic clove, and throw them on the grill for the last few minutes, until charred, to serve alongside.
Note: This recipe can also be made in the oven. Heat it to 400°F, then place the chicken on a rimmed baking sheet breast side up and roast for 55 to 60 minutes, or until a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the chicken reaches 165°F.
- Prep time 12 hours 15 minutes
- Cook time 1 hour
- Serves 4
plain whole-milk yogurt
roughly chopped fresh cilantro leaves (about 1 bunch)
roughly chopped fresh parsley leaves (about 1 bunch)
roughly chopped fresh dill leaves (about 1 bunch)
thinly sliced chives (about 1 bunch)
scallions (about 1 bunch), white and light light green parts only, roughly chopped
garlic cloves, roughly chopped
extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing
lemon zest (from about 1 lemon)
freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 1 lemon)
(4-pound) chicken, giblets removed
- In the bowl of a food processor, add the yogurt, cilantro, parsley, dill, chives, scallions, garlic, salt, olive oil, and lemon zest and juice, and pulse until smooth. (It'll make a scant 2 cups.) Transfer 1/2 cup of the sauce to a small bowl. Transfer the rest to another container, cover with a lid or plastic wrap, and reserve in the refrigerator.
- Place the chicken breast side down on a cutting board. Using sharp kitchen or garden shears, cut along one side of the backbone from the tail to the neck, all the way through. Then, cut alongside the other side of the backbone. (Save the backbone for stock by placing it in a zip-top bag in the freezer until ready to use.) Flip the chicken so that it’s breast side up and use your hand to press firmly on the breastbone to flatten the chicken. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Rub the chicken all over with the reserved 1/2 cup of green sauce. Place the chicken on a sheet pan and gently cover with plastic wrap. Transfer to the refrigerator for at least 12 hours, or up to 24.
- 1 hour before grilling, remove the chicken from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature.
- Prepare the grill. If using a charcoal grill, arrange the hot coals on one side of the grill, to give yourself both direct and indirect heat zones. Let the grates get hot for at least 10 minutes before brushing the grates with olive oil. If using a gas grill, set it to medium-high heat.
- Place the chicken skin side down on the grill over direct heat and cook until the skin is deeply golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes.
- Use grill tongs to flip the chicken over and move it to indirect heat. Place the lid on the grill and continue cooking for 30 minutes. Use tongs to turn the chicken 180° so that every part cooks evenly; continue grilling, with the lid on, until cooked through (when the internal temperature reaches 165°F), about 25 to 30 minutes more.
- Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and let it rest for at least 10 minutes before carving.
- Serve with the reserved herby yogurt sauce.